May 03 2019

Watchdogs report on Turkey's 'high risk' media sector

“How can people evaluate the reliability of information, if they don't know who provides it?” This is the question asked by media rights organisation Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and Turkish independent news site Bianet in a comprehensive report on media ownership in Turkey published on May 3, World Press Freedom Day.

Freedom of the press under Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has been a long-running concern, and observers have estimated that up to 90 percent of the Turkish media by audience share is owned by businessmen or companies with close ties to the government.

The sale of Doğan Media Group to Demirören Holding in March 2018, months ahead of presidential and parliamentary elections, was seen as marking the death knell for the last quasi-independent mainstream media group in the country.

The company that replaced it, Demirören Media Group (DMG), is an exemplary case of the dangerous concentration of media control that the RSF and Bianet’s “Media Ownership Monitor” report details.

With an estimate 15 percent of the country’s media audience, DMG is one of four top media groups in Turkey whose outlets are followed by a combined total of 71 percent of all media followers. The others are Kalyon Group’s Turkuvaz Media, whose outlets are followed by 30 percent of followers, Ciner Group, with 15 percent, and Doğuş Group, with an 11 percent share.

Turkuvaz and DMG both have investments in each of the four media sectors covered in the report: television, print, radio and online.

RSF and Bianet said this concentration of audience share across different media formats amounted to a high risk situation.

This is exacerbated by the fact that two thirds of the top 40 media outlets in the country are owned by companies such as Demirören Holding which have other interests in sectors such as construction, energy, mining and tourism, the report said.

media ownership

While the activities of Demirören, Doğuş, Ciner, Albayrak, Kalyon, İhlas and Türk Medya in these sectors, which often rely on good relations with the government, gives the companies good reason to toe the government’s line, RSF and Bianet identified other factors that increase pressure on media outlets to conform.

One is the distribution of income from state advertising, which the report said is granted exclusively to a small number of media outlets.

Additionally, a large portion of Turkey’s distribution networks are owned by companies with political affiliations.

Over half of newspaper distributors are politically affiliated, while a massive 73 percent of online media is owned by politically affiliated entities, the report said.